Betar Jerusalem made hard work of beating nine-man Maccabi Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night, recording a 1-0 win in an ill-tempered match thanks to Jerome Leroy's fantastic goal.
Petah Tikva went one man down after Rubil Sarsur lashed out at Mazua Ensombo in the 18th minute. It lost its second player in the 55th minute when Morad Megamadov was sent off for a professional foul.
Maccabi could easily have still salvaged something from the game after seeing Sarsur trudge off, but Leroy's goal and Megamadov's sending off broke the visitors' spirit.
Jerusalem also got a red card in the 81st minute when Gal Alberman received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
The three points put Betar only two points behind Hapoel Tel Aviv in the chase for second place and European qualification. Petah Tikva will be looking anxiously over its shoulder as its just one point ahead of second-from-bottom Bnei Sakhnin.
Israeli international Yossi Benayoun - who is in Israel for the national team's friendly match against Denmark on Wednesday - was on hand to watch the game.
He almost saw the yellowand-black take the lead two minutes from the kickoff when Tomer Haliba hit a 30-meter missile that left keeper Ohad Cohen with no chance, but thanks to the post the match remained all square.
Four minutes later Maccabi had its first chance of the match when Sarsur found space in the box and hit a shot from a tight angle straight at Itzik Korenfein.
In the 18th minute Sarsur was once again in the center of things when he lashed out at Ensombo and received the red card.
Ten minutes from halftime, Jerusalem hit the post for the second time in the half after Alberman blasted a shot against the upright from 20 meters out.
Six minutes later Betar finally took the lead. Leroy hit a wonderful volley from the edge of the box leaving Cohen with nothing to do but admire the Frenchman's skills. The goal was Leroy's first in a Betar shirt and was a just reward for his effort in the match.
Ten minutes after the interval, Petah Tikva went a further man down after Megamadov fouled Maor Melikson and received the red card for being the last man on defense.
Fabrice Fernandes should have doubled Betar's lead in the 68th minute, but hit a poor shot that was well saved by Cohen.
Betar almost doubled its lead five minutes from the final whistle when Leroy's shot hit the crossbar, but time ran out and the hosts had to settle for the one-goal victory.
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